GUAP Interviews: Creative Agent & Intensive Care Nurse Elsie Cullen [@elayocu] For The Isolation Issue

Destinie Paige

Over the last few months, the Covid:19 lockdown has affected the lives of millions of people all over the country. However, in the midst of the fear and confusion, came an army of young creatives who came to entertain, inspire, and motivate the masses. 
This cover is called the ‘Isolation Issue’ because it was created in the thick of the Covid:19 lockdown. We worked with talented photographers to shoot individuals via face-time and had the opportunity, to speak to them about the impacts of Covid:19 on their creativity. We had the chance to interview and feature Elsie Cullen, who is a 24-year-old artist, community curator, creative agent, and full-time intensive care nurse.

Credits: Destinie Paige @onlydestt

Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Elsie Ayotunde Cullen and I’m a 24 years old artist, community curator, and overall creative agent. Alongside this, I also work full time as an Intensive Care Nurse. 

What inspired you to do what you do?

My inspirations for the creative and community work come from my parents, both of which are nursery teachers and creatives in their own right. They’ve both invested in me a wealth of culture, which has been integral to my development as an individual and agent of change. It was precisely this foundation that gave me the courage to spend 5 months volunteering in India when I was 18 and it was there I came face to face with issues of poverty, lack of healthcare provision, and the significant impact that individuals can have in their local communities. After that trip, I realised my passion for international humanitarianism and chose healthcare as the premise on which I carry out my work. A year after I came back from India I started my career into nursing and have continued with my creative and community work through my brand, Our Ppls.

How has covid:19 affected your work? 

When the pandemic started I had just started my role in Intensive Care and was supposed to undergo four weeks of training to prepare me for my role. However that all got fast tracked and instead I only got one day training and was expected to start working with unconscious, ventilated patients after two days of supervision. At first I was so scared, we had 2/3 admissions everyday and basically had to create beds out of empty spaces. Things have settled now though and we’re slowly returning to a normal pace which I’m grateful for.

What was the biggest challenge of working from home whilst in self-isolation? 

Aside from my nursing job, it’s been interesting working on my creative and community work from home. My biggest challenge has probably been restructuring where our priorities lie and understanding how we can continue to add value to disadvantaged communities in a world that is increasingly becoming digital.

On a day to day, how do you balance personal and professional life, especially now that you’re working in quarantine?

I’m lucky that my “professional” life allows me to continue working outside of the home environment. Therefore, the rest of my time is literally all mine to play with. Pre-lockdown I was always super work and outcomes oriented, whereas now I’ve given myself permission to relax into my interests as a channel for my other work to continue. 

What are some of the highlights/successes you’ve had most recently?

Being asked to do this interview! I never esperred it and so I’m grateful. Also, being able to share some of my community work/ art in meaningful ways has been a highlight for me. I’m the creator of Adinkra based affirmation cards and doing InstaLive affirmation readings has been amazing and I’ve loved sharing them with my people.

What’s next for you on your journey?

 I’ve just applied for my Masters Degree in Health and International Development, so I’m really hoping I get onto the course. The aim is to create a career that fuses all my professional interests and be able to travel the world.

What would be your advice to other creatives, struggling to main creativity and motivation in isolation? 

Reach out to your friends or other artists online that you respect and maybe ask to do collaborative art creation sessions…spend time watching documentaries or films that inspire you. Check out online tutorials and other content that can help you develop your craft. But most of all just experiment, play around, if you’re a singer, try you luck at dancing and vice versa, now is the time really create and be creative.

What have you learnt about yourself and the world whilst in isolation?

 I’ve learned how truly precious life is, and how important it is for me to really the various gifts I have but most of all honour time and every moment that I’m alive.

How do you hope our society will change for the better after COVID -19? 

I hope people will prioritise community and conversation, connectivity, and collaboration. I hope people will give more value to family life and building genuine connections with their domestic life. I also hope that we as a society will focus more on the essential issues like health, wellbeing, and how we connect with each other, rather than vain capitalism and meaningless ventures.

Check out the GUAP Arts & Culture section, to discover new art, film, and creative individuals.

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